Gone but Not Forgotten: Five Steps for Regaining Customer Trust and Customer Revenue


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Every business has customers who have departed.

There are a variety of reasons that prompt departure. And how you react to the departure will either validate that they left for a good reason, or begin the process of bringing back that customer and that customer revenue.

In fact, companies that do a great job of winning back departed customers will frequently have a stronger relationship as a result.

Follow these five steps to identify and regain customer trust and relationships:

  1. Track customers who have departed.

    Most companies only track customer retention as a percentage of their business. They often don’t get down to the number and the actual customers who have departed. This effort must be about caring about the customers who left not just the percentage or how they impact your balance sheet. So the first is to quantify the volume of customer and the volume of business that departed. This can be done monthly or quarterly, depending on the volume of your business model.

  2. Segment and identify those who departed.

    All customers who have departed, especially if you have a high volume business, are not contributing the same value to your business. So now you need to make some hard decisions. Segment the customer base of departed customers and make a determination which you will reach out to for recovery.

  3. Reach out to customers with respect, reason and reconciliation.

    Now that you know who you want to save, reach out to them with a phone call. My suggestion is to have two groups within your company make the calls. First, executives should call a handful (1-10) of departed customers in every “rescue” cycle to keep them close to the issues driving customers out the door.

    The second group is a specially prepared group of people who are trained in a recovery conversation with the customer. This is not a sales pitch. The first part of the conversation is apologizing that the customer left. The second part is listening, intently to the customers’ explanation. The third part is diagnosing and verifying back to the customer why they departed, and cataloging this information for the company. And the fourth part is extending support and immediate assistance in resolving the issue. Finally, there should be an offer (not a pitch) extended to the customer to bring them back. These skills need to be developed and this can be a very rewarding project for your best call center folks, or for exceptional managers within your company. I would not outsource this.

  4. Categorize reasons for departure. Take action.

    After the calls, there is major opportunity for your company to identify the issues that came from all of the calls and trend and track these issues. By attaching them to the revenue of the departed customers, these issues can also be prioritized.

    Within the second session of customer recovery, the most critical issues will emerge and there will be no question what you should focus on. There may also be opportunities that arise from these calls about the frontline service that can provide immediate and specific feedback to the frontline that served the customer and potentially contributed to the customers’ departure. Creating a closed loop process for this feedback is very potent, in that very specific information usually comes out of these calls that are productive for coaching.

  5. Put returned customers into “Intensive Care.”

    Once a customer has agreed to come back into your business, to be rescued, keep an eye on them. Conduct a review every six months of their experiences, tracking customer service calls, purchasing, support and other indicators which will identify the health of the restarted relationship. Then reach out again. Your close attention will not go unnoticed.

Results you can expect from customer recovery:

The process of customer recovery has been fruitful in every vertical business where I have seen this practiced. In financial services, with high levels of customer departure, we experienced as high as 30% customer recovery. We also achieved an improvement in frontline service as the feedback gleaned from these calls was provided immediately to the managers of account reps serving customers who departed.

In an automotive client, we experienced 10-15% return for service work following calls and rescue efforts to customers who had lapsed. The key is to ensure that there is a planned process to contact, resolve and reconcile the issues with the customers who have departed. But then there must also be an intention and commitment to fix the issues which pushed the customers out the door. The focus must be to fix the customers AND to fix the company. In this way, the customer rescue process brings back in revenue and prevents future revenue from departing from your business.


  1. Excellent advice — takes win-loss analysis to new heights of value-add for the company. Everyone should do this!

    And of course, it’s a great strategy to put in place preventive analyses and processes — best to prevent customer churn in the first place through customer experience management, e.g. my blog entry at http://www.customerthink.com/blog/cems_weakest_link_3_tips_managing_brand_value.

    Lynn Hunsaker, http://www.ClearAction.biz, mentors executives for superior customer profitability by preventing customer hassles and churn.

  2. Well written, methodical, simple to read & straight to the point article.

    You have highlighted important Points which I’ll add further for readers in “Procedure (Benefits/Opportunity)” layout:

    1.) Customer Leaving (Resolve Problem & Improve into USP/Strength)

    2.) Segment (20% of Customer with 80% Sales & 80% Customer with 20% Sales)

    3.) Reach Out:
    • Apologize – show care/empathy ? customer open dialogue.
    • Listen – Executive Understand & force through change + Specialist Solve, Train & Prevent re-occurrence.
    • Diagnose & Verify – Understanding the customer way + Differentiate Core problem from Symptom)
    • Cataloging Info. – Marketing Intelligence (Management Use) & Knowledge Management (info. Sharing & Access to influence customer)
    • Offer – (irresistible Offer to Superbly Fulfil/Impress ?Convert to Brand Ambassador ? Offer + Up-sell & Cross-sell ? Acknowledge/Reward ? Create & Apply System to lock-down 20:80 customer long term)

    4.) Categorize Departure Reason:
    • Critical Core Problems – resolve Priority Issue for immediate Sales Recovery
    • Supplemental Core Problems – Convert to Strength or Differentiated Modification to USP
    • Symptoms – Ad-Hoc Solution with Intensive Care Attention gaining loyalty & long-term dialogue/feedback
    • Close Loop – managers & front-liners own the problem, owns the solution, owns rewarding results ? HR (capitalise for career development)

    5.) Intensive Care (Heal Customer, Plant Confidence/Support, boost sales/consumption, solidify relationship and Grasp & convert network).

    Jimmy Chan


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